ELA and Mathematics Shifts

Common Core “Shifts”

There are twelve shifts that the Common Core requires of us if we are to be truly aligned with it in terms of curricular materials and classroom instruction. There are six shifts in Mathematics and six shifts in ELA/ Literacy.

 

Shifts in ELA/ Literacy

 

Shift 1 Balancing Informational & Literary Texts

Students read a true balance of informational and literary texts. Elementary school classrooms are, therefore, places where students access the world – science, social studies, the arts and literature – through text. At least 50% of what students read is informational.

Shift 2 Knowledge in the Disciplines

Content area teachers outside of the ELA classroom emphasize literacy experiences in their planning and instruction. Students learn through domain specific texts in science and social studies classrooms – rather than referring to the text, they are expected to learn from what they read.

Shift 3 Staircase of Complexity

In order to prepare students for the complexity of college and career ready texts, each grade level requires a “step” of growth on the “staircase”. Students read the central, grade appropriate text around which instruction is centered. Teachers are patient, create more time and space in the curriculum for this close and careful reading, and provide appropriate and necessary scaffolding and supports so that it is possible for students reading below grade level.

Shift 4 Text-based Answers

Students have rich and rigorous conversations which are dependent on a common text. Teachers insist that classroom experiences stay deeply connected to the text on the page and that students develop habits for making evidentiary arguments both in conversation, as well as in writing to assess comprehension of a text.

Shift 5 Writing from Sources

Writing needs to emphasize use of evidence to inform or make an argument rather than the personal narrative and other forms of decontextualized prompts. While the narrative still has an important role, students develop skills through written arguments that respond to the ideas, events, facts, and arguments presented in the texts they read.

Shift 6 Academic Vocabulary

Students constantly build the vocabulary they need to access grade level complex texts. By focusing strategically on comprehension of pivotal and commonly found words (such as “discourse,” “generation,” “theory,” and “principled”) and less on esoteric literary terms (such as “onomatopoeia” or “homonym”), teachers constantly build students’ ability to access more complex texts across the content areas.

 

Shifts in Mathematics

 

Shift 1 Focus 

Teachers use the power of the eraser and significantly narrow and deepen the scope of how time and energy is spent in the math classroom. They do so in order to focus deeply on only the concepts that are prioritized in the standards so that students reach strong foundational knowledge and deep conceptual understanding and are able to transfer mathematical skills and understanding across concepts and grades.

Shift 2 Coherence 

Principals and teachers carefully connect the learning within and across grades so that, for example, fractions or multiplication spiral across grade levels and students can build new understanding onto foundations built in previous years. Teachers can begin to count on deep conceptual understanding of core content and build on it. Each standard is not a new event, but an extension of previous learning.

Shift 3 Fluency 

Students are expected to have speed and accuracy with simple calculations; teachers structure class time and/or homework time for students to memorize, through repetition, core functions (found in the attached list of fluencies) such as multiplication tables so that they are more able to understand and manipulate more complex concepts.

Shift 4 Deep Understanding

Teachers teach more than “how to get the answer” and instead support students’ ability to access concepts from a number of perspectives so that students are able to see math as more than a set of mnemonics or discrete procedures. Students demonstrate deep conceptual understanding of core math concepts by applying them to new situations as well as writing and speaking about their understanding.

Shift 5 Application 

Students are expected to use math and choose the appropriate concept for application even when they are not prompted to do so. Teachers provide opportunities at all grade levels for students to apply math concepts in “real world” situations. Teachers in content areas outside of math, particularly science, ensure that students are using math – at all grade levels – to make meaning of and access content.

Shift 6 Dual Intensity 

Students are practicing and understanding. There is more than a balance between these two things in the classroom – both are occurring with intensity. Teachers create opportunities for students to participate in “drills” and make use of those skills through extended application of math concepts. The amount of time and energy spent practicing and understanding learning environments is driven by the specific mathematical concept and therefore, varies throughout the given school year.